May 18, 2016

Tips for Deciding What To Read

IMG_0188As a writer and a reader, I’m always looking for things to read. I tend to read many types of books. In the past, I’d browse through the book store, glance at covers, titles, look for favorite authors, read a few pages and make a decision.


In today’s world of electronic reading, we have much better ways to find good books to read. Here are some of my tips.

My friends, relations, colleagues, suggest books to me all the time.They know me better than Amazon does (Amazon also makes suggestions). Usually when they tell me about a book, I feel fairly confident, it will be one I’d like to read. Even with that, however, I check out the reviews and comments online. Sometimes my friends like things I do not. Nothing is one hundred percent certain, but word of mouth is the most reliable way to find good reading.

I’m an NPR junkie. I hear about reviews and listen to author interviews on the radio. I’ve found a number of wonderful books that way. Being a podcast subscriber to the NY Review of Books, I listen to reviewers talking about the latest best seller. Of course simply because a book is a best seller doesn’t necessarily make it a book for me (Gone Girl, for example). But, reviews are a great source for finding books.

Libraries are still a great book-finding place, whether online or in print. If you go to the library, you can flip through the pages like you used to. Browsing the shelves of books and finding old-friend authors is one of my favorite pastimes.

Often we read a book by an author and then we forget them altogether. We might remember the name of the book. But, who wrote it? It hurts me as a writer how quickly readers forget our names, but that’s the way of the world. If you write down the name of the author you like, it’s easy to find all their books, and that will be a great source for you. My mom reads lots of mysteries. She studies the stories in the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. When she likes a story, she searches for that author online to find books. Good idea, eh?

People complain that they don’t want to join a book club because they like to pick what they read. They don’t like someone else telling them what to read. If you can find a flexible club, one that doesn’t REQUIRE you to read the book, then that’s a great source for reading material. I’ve often been surprised to have never heard of the book selected and then to thoroughly enjoy it.

These are my tips for finding what to read. What are some of your tips? And, if you’ve just read a great book, let us know what it is! BTW, I just finished H is for Hawk by Helen M
cDonald. It’s an interesting read, very different… check out the reviews.

Tips for Coming Up with a Title for Your Book

ClutterDuring a number of interviews, I’ve been asked how I came up with the title of The Clock Strikes Midnight. As I work on my new book, I wonder about this question. Actually I wonder about the bigger question.

I can share a little about how I’ve come up with titles. My guess is the authors out there have different stories. First, most of us begin with an idea and a working title. Being a pantster writer (a writer who doesn’t use an outline. See this blog post on that topic), my idea changes as I write.

With The Clock Strikes Midnight, the story began in one direction and then I turned it upside down. In the beginning the working title was “Drawn Curtains.” That made sense to start with, but later it didn’t.

With The e-Murderer the original working title was The Internet Murderer. Again, I had an idea but the title was clearly not catchy enough and really didn’t snag the essence of the story.

My new work has a working title, 5 Cans of Crazy. I loved that statement when I heard it, but now that I’m over 200 pages into the writing of the book, I’m realizing that title may not work.

So, what are my tips:

1) Begin with a working title but don’t get too attached to it.

2) Once the book is finished, let it rest and allow your mind to play with the story.

3) Think about the major theme or thread running through your story.

4) Allow your creative juices to flow. Don’t force it but mull over it. I have never been successful at writing down a bunch of ideas or brainstorming by myself. I’m great at brainstorming in groups. But, alone, I’m no good. It’s best for me to allow my subconscious to play with the thoughts.

5) When it comes, and it will come, grab it.

How did you go about finding the perfect title?

Promotional Book Tours Rave Reviews

During the fabulous review tour hosted by Promotion Book Tours, The Clock Strikes Midnight received many rave reviews. Learn why bloggers love this book.

5ReviewStarsKelly’s Book Blog says… “This is the first book I’ve ever read by Joan Curtis and I’ve gotta say I’m a huge fan! I don’t normally read books like this so I was a little nervous going into it. I really shouldn’t have been! I was hooked after the first chapter.” Read more…

Undercover Book Review says… “I had to actually sit and think on just how I wanted this review to go.  And it boils down to you just really have to read this book!  The way it’s set, the characters, the whole book in general will have you on a roller coaster ride to say the least!  I won’t to spoil the whole book for you but as always,  I feel that just cheats the next reader, so…with saying that…  PICK THIS BOOK UP!!!!”

Gina’s Library says…“This is a very fast moving story that grabs your attention from the very first page. I highly recommend this book.” Read more..

A Mama’s Corner of the World says…Would I recommend The Clock Strikes Midnight by Joan C. Curtis?  I loved this book.  It isn’t an action packed thriller–but, a nicely paced drama, focusing on helping a family make peace with the mysteries of the past and regain the future.   If you enjoy a life-focused mystery–loaded with secrets and emotion–then this book should be on your summer reading list!” Read more…

Bookworm’s Babbling says… “As The Clock Strikes Midnight is a gripping suspense novel that has you at the edge of your seat the entire time.  My heart broke for both Marly and Janie as the story of their past began to unfold. Read more…

The Mama Chronicles says…“If you enjoy a mystery then I would certainly recommend this book.  It will keep you on your toes and wanting to know more!” Read more…

OMG Goodies calls it a true page-turner and says… “From page 1 this book captivated me. I do not want to give away too many details in this review because I want everyone to enjoy it for themselves but I will say it is a real page turner.” Read more…

Andi’s Book Reviews says…I don’t remember ever reading a book quite like this one. It is the journey of a family, torn apart by betrayal and secrets. It has elements of romance, suspense, and mystery, but not so much so that you could easily categorize this book as any of those three.” Read more… 

5Niki’s Book Corner says... “Great book well written, many twists, great characters, good thrilling story, can’t wait to read more from this Author.” Read more… 

Disney Grandma says… “This story-line is one of the best mystery/suspenseful stories. I have read many, but this one made me want to route for Janie Knox from start to end. She has been dealt with a rough life but when she decides to take matters in her own hands the story just gets better and better.” Read more…

This book can be yours for just $2.99 on Amazon or B&N!




Those Who Enjoy a Good Mystery Will Enjoy The Clock Strikes Midnight

Five-Star Review from ReadersFavorites!

Reviewed by Jeffrey Brooke-Stewart for Reader’s Favorite5star-shiny-web

With The Clock Strikes Midnight, Joan Curtis has written a true page-turner. The plot follows a successful businesswoman named Janie as she takes a journey back over her life. The diagnosis of terminal cancer (given on the opening page, so no plot spoiler there) rouses Janie’s determination to take care of unfinished issues. The story begins in Savannah, Georgia, but quickly moves to Atlanta where the author deftly describes the contrasts of various parts of that city.

Joan C. Curtis takes the reader through Janie’s life story and that of the previous generation. The characters of her family and friends are developed with sensitivity, even though some of them are very unattractive. Central to the plot is an understanding of Janie’s family–her mother, step-father and her sister, in particular.

In the process, the author describes Janie’s determination and her progress towards settling the old issue before the cancer causes her death. Exactly what that issue is does not become clear until the final pages. But it becomes obvious that it involves the murder of Janie’s mother by her step-father, Ralph. Ralph’s plea of innocence only added to the uncertainty and suspense.

On a number of occasions the reader may anticipate the ending, but each time a new variable is introduced to maintain the uncertainty and tension! The result is a fast-moving suspense-filled yarn. Those who like a good mystery will enjoy this book.


Keep ‘Em and Save Both Time and Money

A 5-star review for Hire Smart and Keep ‘Em
Hire Smart and Keep Them
Keep `Em and Save Both Time and Money, December 5, 2012
The phrase, “Time is money,” has been in use since the 1700’s and is particularly applicable today. It implies that if
you are not carefully handling your time, you are losing money. Time spent in seeking new employees is time not
spent on other managerial duties, or simply time not spent moving your business or enterprise ahead. That is an okay tradeoff if at the end of that time spent the employee you hire turns out to be not only a good worker, but one who
will stay with you. Recruiting and hiring new employees is not a process that many like to repeat.Hire Smart and Keep `Em, by Dr. Joan C. Curtis is a book built on the theme that you can save both time and money
by hiring the right person for the job the first time around. This book, written in clear style, follows the
speech-teachers-maxim, “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.” With each chapter, Dr. Curtis leads you down the path of not only successful hiring, but provides strategies to ensure that you and the person you hire will benefit for the long term.For this, Dr. Curtis utilizes what she calls the POINT process. In this title, P stands for plan, O is for open, IN stand
for intentional, and T is for test. For each step in the process you will receive an explanation of the importance of the step as well as digestible examples of the process in action. Many chapters also have a short self-administered quiz
or exercise at the end to help you determine that you have understood the concept. Answers to the questions appear
in Appendix A.You will find explanations of intentional listening skills that will benefit employers and employees alike not only in interviewing, but to be utilized as standard business practice. For example, one way to show that you are actively
listening in a conversation is to paraphrase. When you paraphrase what another has just uttered, you make “a
statement that represents in your words what the person has just said: it has an understood question mark at the end.” A successful paraphrase, not only results in a clarification of the candidate’s view/statement, but also produces “more information for the interviewer to explore.” Here is an example, from the book:Candidate: When I worked for the Athletic Association, I had an opportunity to go to all the home games. I felt as though I was part of something bigger than simply typing and filing. We all were a part of the team. When the team won, everyone celebrated together as if we all had a part in it.

Interviewer: It sounds as if you like working in a job where there is a strong team spirit.

The candidate then may agree with your assessment, or provide clarification.

This is just one brief example in a book filled with tips and topics that can help you not only avoid some common
pitfalls during hiring, but if utilized, can help you in daily interactions as well.

Thank you, Dr. Curtis.


Outstanding–This Book is An Essential Read for Any Interviewer

Five-Star Review on Amazon for Hire Smart and Keep ‘Em

Hire Smart and Keep Them


5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding: this book is an essential read for any interviewer!!, August 26, 2012

I’ve been involved in interviewing and hiring sales associates for almost 20 years. Have you ever interviewed a candidate who seemed to be a star and ultimately joined the team only to wonder what happened to that person when you observed behaviors on the job that you didn’t detect at all during the interview? I think any manager would agree that one bad hiring decision can potentially lead to a mountain of headaches and lost productivity.Hire Smart and Keep `Em: How to Interview Strategically Using POINT by Joan Curtis is an absolute MUST READ for anyone involved in talent acquisition! It’s well written, easy to read and offers countless tips to make the interview process go smoothly. Ms. Curtis teaches how to create an open and safe environment for the candidate to share things that would likely never come up in a set of scripted questions.

After modifying my approach to interviewing and using the POINT process outlined by Ms. Curtis, I am confident that I’ve gotten to know

candidates on a deeper level and have much more easily identified past behaviors that might predict future success (or lack thereof!) for the role in question. The practices revealed in Hire Smart and Keep `Em: How to Interview Strategically Using POINT have improved the skills of our interviewers and made a highly positive impact on our process of bringing on new talent. The tools in this book should be essential education for anyone involved in interviewing!